Kevin Love and Blake Griffin have both been dominant forces for their teams all year long.
NBA fans have witnessed their emergence as two all-star power forwards this year.
They can score, they can rebound and they each give their teams a future.
With the season now winding down, we know that at least one of these teams won't make the playoffs, while the other would need a miracle to get in.
Both the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Clippers can start thinking about next year and what the future holds.
That being said, it's interesting to question which team's future is brighter. And more specifically, which team's star is a better player to build a team around?
This slideshow will try to answer that question...
For me, it helps to start any comparison by looking at the numbers.
I'm going to show you a couple tables that will serve as the basis for this comparison between Love and Griffin.
The most important and basic skills required for a great power forward will be included (scoring, rebounding, etc). You'll find those in the first table.
The second table will include some more advanced statistics such as Player Efficiency Rating (PER), True Shooting Percentage (TS%), Total Rebounding Percentage (TRB%) and Assist Percentage (AST%).
PER attempts to incorporate all the major offensive statistics into one category that measures general efficiency.
TS percentage is a number that takes three-pointers and free throws into account when determining a weighted field goal percentage.
TRB percentage estimates what percent of available rebounds the player grabs.
Finally, AST percentage estimates the number of teammates' field goals that the player assisted on.
With all that in mind, let's start with the basic stats...
|Blake Griffin||Kevin Love|
|Blake Griffin||Kevin Love|
Right now, Griffin's offensive game could be described as unpolished. A lot of his buckets are attained purely through his aggression, hustle and tenacity.
He doesn't have many post moves to speak of, and his mid and long-range games aren't great.
Considering his attitude, it's not much of a stretch to say he can develop those aspects over time.
There are other aspects of his offensive game that are unheralded, but still very good. He's a solid passer (3.5 assists a game) and he reads defenses very well. He always seems to know when and where to cut.
Kevin Love is already one of the most fundamentally sound big men in the league. He boxes out, is well-known for his outlet passes and shoots well from any range.
His shooting is what makes him extremely versatile. For the first time in NBA history, the league's leading rebounder is also one of its best three-point shooters.
He's first on his team with 74 threes made, and second behind Luke Ridnour in three-point percentage.
His rebounding is a big part of Minnesota's offense as well. He grabs about a third of all available defensive rebounds and starts the offense with great outlet passes to Minnesota's guards.
On the other end, his nearly five offensive rebounds per game keeps the ball in Minnesota's possession after missed shots.
I have to give a very slight edge to Kevin Love.
Blake Griffin may score a bit more, but he also takes more shots. Love's the better shooter, has more conventional post moves and grabs more offensive rebounds.
Love may never be among the league's leading scorers, but he'll likely always be more efficient on offense than Griffin.
Plus, Love is only one year older than Griffin. So as Blake develops offensively over the next few years, Love will too.
As is the case with Griffin on offense, his defense is not the prettiest looking thing at times. However, his athleticism and attitude help him make up for mistakes that others could not.
Another thing working against Blake on defense is his build. He lacks the length that most great interior defenders possess. He may be listed at 6'10", but he's about as compact as a 6'10" player can be.
Kevin Love is not the greatest defender himself. In fact, Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis cited Love's defense as the reason he didn't play nearly as much as many thought he should last season.
However, one of the most important parts of defense is securing the rebound at the end of the possession. No one in the league does that better than Kevin Love.
The numbers and the footage don't lie concerning Love's defense though. There are plenty of power forwards and centers that can score with relative ease on him.
Again, the edge is slight here, but I have to give it to Griffin. He's the more athletic player, and he plays with a little more determination than Love does.
And of course, athleticism and determination are critical for defensive success.
Blake Griffin is an excellent rebounder. Two-thirds of the way through his rookie year, Griffin is fourth in the NBA in rebounds per game.
He doesn't grab or collect rebounds, he attacks them. Anyone who has watched the Clippers this year knows exactly what I mean by that.
Over the next few years, his instincts and fundamentals will improve. That improvement, in combination with his tenacity, will make him a force on the glass for a long time.
He leads the league in boards per game at 15.5, and his nearest competitor for the rebounding title is nearly two full rebounds per game behind him at 13.8.
He has the best rebounding instincts in the NBA. He may be the most fundamentally sound rebounder in the league. And most importantly, he has the desire to grab every ball that comes off the rim.
Griffin is a great rebounder, but he doesn't possess the intangibles that Kevin Love does.
Love will be dominating this category for years to come.
It won't be long before one of these Hollywood stars starts to shine brighter than the other.
The Kobe Bryant era in Los Angeles is slowly drawing to a close, while the dawn of Blake Griffin's era is breaking over the Hollywood hills.
There is no doubt that he'll develop into one of the very best players in the league over the next few seasons leading up to his prime.
If he can polish his game a bit while maintaining his desire and intensity, he'll be unreal.
Kevin Love has a great deal of potential as well.
This is the first season in his career in which he's averaged more than 30 minutes per game. He's rewarding his coach for giving him the playing time we all knew he deserved.
This is just his third season in the NBA and he's already first in rebounding, fifth in player efficiency and 19th in scoring.
If Minnesota can get a couple more good players in town with Love, they could be back in the playoffs in a few years.
Love and Griffin are both great already. The reason I give Griffin the edge in potential is this: He's already producing huge numbers, but when you watch him you can see he still has a lot of room to improve.
Love can get better as well, but almost looks as though he may be approaching his ceiling (which is a high one).
Griffin is only a rookie and can already be considered one of the two or three best power forwards in the NBA.
In four or five years, I wouldn't be surprised to see him averaging 30 points and 14 rebounds per game while leading the Clippers to relevance and maybe even title contention.
One of the most important attributes to consider when selecting a foundation for a franchise is leadership ability. Even as a rookie, Griffin has shown he is a great leader.
Right now, he leads mostly by example. His unending supply of intensity and hustle has effectively motivated a previously tired franchise.
The biggest evidence is the revival of Baron Davis. He looked completely uninterested in this season before he realized he was playing with a guy who might go down in history as one of the best ever.
In a couple years, Griffin will not only lead by example, but he'll be the vocal leader of this team as well.
On a team where seemingly anyone could step up and fill the void where a leader should be, no one really has. Not even Kevin Love.
The Timberwolves have a little talent, but they really don't look interested in competing at times.
If Kevin Love and Blake Griffin had switched places prior to this season, do you really think Minnesota would still be 13-43?
Blake Griffin is the better leader now, and will be in the future.
Kevin Love is a fantastic player and he'll be very important to the Timberwolves for years to come (assuming he doesn't look for a bigger market a la LeBron or Carmelo).
However, he may be better suited as the number two. He would be a great complimentary player along side a true top ten or fifteen talent.
With Griffin, there's no doubt that he can be the centerpiece of a team. He's already dominating in many ways and he still has a ton of raw talent that is yet to be tapped.